Thursday, November 12, 2009


There are people, places, and things in our lives for whom we willingly do all we can with kindness and love. Maybe it's an organization you work for. Maybe it's your dog. Maybe your child, parent, friend, or partner.

For most of us, our compassion flows freely and easily with a select group of priorities in our lives. Sacrifice comes willingly; selflessness is not even labeled as such - it feels so natural.

Today it is my daughter, sicker than she has been so far in her brief life and desperately craving care, love, and strength. No question, no hesitation; she gets all I have. I wait (and write) in her small moments of sleeping, hoping for better news with the next thermometer read.

These easy acts of compassion are important, I believe, because they offer greater insight into our capacity to love something in the absence (or at least forgetting) of self. There is no longer separation between "me" and the object of my compassion because I am already such a decided part of it, and vice versa.

So, these loves of ours provide windows into the majesty of our souls. Becoming mindful of the compassionate acts, words, and thoughts we commit without hesitation provides occasion to look more honestly at the opportunities we miss or ignore.

I happened upon Speaking of Faith this weekend, and caught an interview with Karen Armstrong, who has dedicated her life to the study of spirituality and religion in multiple forms. Many of her ideas gibe with others I've encountered lately:

  • The concept of right action as a conscious choice and form of ethical behavior and moral comportment more linked to the person we decide to be than a religious concept of God or specific dogma.
  • The overriding concept among a multitude of faiths (monotheistic, creedal, covenantal, fundamentalist, philosophic, etc.) uniting each, which boils down to how we treat one another and make our way through the world.
These ideas led her to create the Charter for Compassion, which is a stunning concept and uplifting and inspiring project. It unites people of all faiths, mindsets, and beliefs to commit to loving action and greater empathy. Just imagine, if we could all commit to this level of compassion in all aspects of our lives: no cruelty, no violence, no conscious infliction of pain upon another... any other. What might we accomplish?

Compassion has the potential to unite us all. It has the power to change the world - and not in a Pollyanna-ish, pie-in-the-sky kind of way. I mean really change it... on small and large levels. Someone lets you into merging traffic; someone holds the door for you because your hands are full; someone tells you they believe in you and gives you hope in a dark time; someone holds your hand in the hospital before surgery, providing an anchor in a storm of crisis; someone says something kind in the midst of your mourning and it allows you to push forward one more time.

Compassion for ourselves, compassion for others. It indelibly alters our world experience and worldview in a way that is positive and productive. Bound to authenticity, honesty, kindness, and empathy - it is the opposite of control, the antithesis of judgment, and the impossibility of hatred.

May you hold another in your heart today and treat them with compassion. May you honor yourself with love and kindness. And may the objects of your compassion increase daily.

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